Defying Gravity: Unconventional Self-Care

There is much to be said about the experience of living abroad. But more importantly, as this dynamic platform highlights, there is so much more to unpack about this particular experience when you happen to be a woman of color. The collective narratives of Las Morenas de España give an account of our diverse experiences, discoveries, ruminations, and individual passions and purpose, as we make our way in and around this international life. Within this collection of voices lie the common threads of pro-blackness, feminist solidarity, self-care, and fearlessness, which weave together a rich tapestry of black girl magic. That said, the one thing that every magical black girl abroad knows to be true, is that your relationship with fear, and its ever evolving nature, is probably the single most important factor in your overall expatriate journey. Moving abroad already requires a certain level of gravitas, but thriving abroad is wherein lies the true tests of heart: The decision to push past your comfort-zone, or retreat to the familiar; to unabashedly stumble through Spanish or to fall back on your eloquent English; to go forth and explore everything that there is to be found, or to withdraw into yourself so as not to encounter unexpected challenges. All of these decisions can rest on a razor’s edge of the fear-courage continuum, a relationship in which we all must engage, but one that is more acutely experienced in the daily life of an expatriate.

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Self-care plays a critical role in the fear-courage relationship, especially while abroad because it creates the time and space for you to rest and restore your heart, mind, and body. It renews your spirit, so that you can get up and go on to thrive another day. While self-care tends to have this connotation of self-soothing indulgences, wrapped in a soft color palette, while Cranes in the Sky plays in the background on repeat, it literally can be anything and everything that achieves the goal of making you feel better about facing the world to make your place in the world, in spite of the ways of the world[1]. One of the best forms of self-care, quite literally, is taking good physical care of your body. For those of us whom yoga is not enough, who balk at the thought of running, who feel no real connection to conventional forms of physical activity, and yearn to push past what’s expected or explore something more daring or even risqué, in order to ascend to next level of bad bishery [2] —there are several options. By now you may be wondering, “B, where are you going with this?” I’m glad you asked.

 

 

At this point in the life and times of social media, it’s likely you’ve seen at least one (or several hundred) video(s) on IG or YouTube, of some long-legged, bawdy rockin’, bawse bish, defying the laws of gravity while twirling and/or twerking her way around a stripper pole—not to a shower of dollar bills, but to the raucous applause of a seated audience. This next level of bad bishery, for which I’ve built this long prelude, is in fact, pole dancing for fitness (or for some dollars, because agency is a beautiful thing!) and yes, pole dancing is indeed a form a self-care.  Pole dancing isn’t for everyone, but for every woman who’s been bold enough turn “I wish I could do that” into “I did that!” pole dancing has left an indelible mark on their lives, not just their bodies. Every day, the women of this community show the world that we are in no short supply of boldness, and that limits and boundaries do not apply to us. So, for those of you who may interested in taking flight, here’s the what, the why, and the where to defy gravity while living in Spain.

 

What to Know

Pole dancing is a sport and an art form; I want to emphasize the sport part of this, because pole dancing is hard work. Your arms will burn, your hands will ache, and your thighs may bruise. You will at some point leave some skin on the pole, or the floor, or both, and while we’re speaking in absolutes here, you will at one point or another, question your sanity for pursuing this sport. But that’s why it’s so very awesome. Nothing is quite as rewarding than making progress through adversity, whether the challenge be your strength or your ability to push through the temporary [3] discomfort that comes with the territory, progress (and awesome IG pics) is the reward for all your hard work.

 

Why You Should

Because you want to, which is my standard answer to the question of why you should do anything. But in case you need more convincing, here are a few tangibles. Upper. Body. Strength. Many a woman has been convinced that she does not possess this physical trait; I know this to be largely untrue. Most of us are stronger than we could ever imagine. Like all things in life, you must tap into what is just beneath the surface in order to make progress, and in this case, you must learn how to activate your shoulder girdle. While Michelle Obama arms and six-pack abs are not guaranteed, because genetics be like, “some of y’all get muscles and some of y’all dont”, you will get freakishly strong with time. I am now legitimately unable to tell if my suitcase is overweight, because I can lift 50lbs with one arm without much effort, and 2-minute planks are a breeze. But what I feel is the most compelling reason to explore this sport is that courage and confidence become a very tangible part of your life. It takes courage to climb up a 12-foot pole, to hang upside down only by squeezing your thighs together, and it takes confidence to keep trying over and over again before you figure out how to create the perfect triangulation of your butt over your head in relation to your feet, in order to hold a handspring. Strength and technique are only 50% what is needed to progress in this sport, the other half of progress is literally tied to your relationship with courage and confidence. Some days that relationship is better than others, but no matter what your relationship status of the day, you are forced to reckon with it on a regular basis, and in a tangible manner.

 

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Where to Defy Gravity

Pole dancing is an international obsession, and there seems to be less of a stigma associated with it in Spain than there is stateside. Woe is the US and its puritanical roots *shakes fist*—not that that’s ever stopped me from answering truthfully, regardless of the audience, about what I do to have such well defined arms. I pretty much dare anyone to raise an eyebrow when I casually mention that I pole dance (and teach aerial hoop [4]), because #confidence #igotnoeffstogive. So, since you asked, here’s where to find a studio near[5] you.

 

Madrid

Madrid Pole Dance Studio

Flow Pole Dance

El Horno de Madrid

Central de Pole

 

Barcelona

Pole Dance BCN

Pole Dance Factory

Feeling Woman Pole Dance Sport

 

Sevilla/Jerez de la Frontera/Málaga

Escuelas Pole Fitness

Murcia

Studio 4 All Fitness & Dance

Valencia

Infinity Estudio

 

This sport and art form has played a critical role in my evolution into the woman I am right now—and it continues to push me forward. This practice has been my bridge to sanity when all other things have failed, and remains a core part of my self-discovery. Part of my self-care is all about finding the courage to defy my own critical self-thoughts, and my pole and aerial practice have helped to give me the type of courage to feel unstoppable and magical in ways I could have never imagined. If you’ve ever been intrigued by pole, but for whatever reason, you haven’t gotten around to it, now is the time. If you’ve managed to move abroad, and survive all the trappings that come with it, really, how much scarier could a pole dancing class be? Go ahead, self-care outside the lines, and slay all day!

There’s nothing stopping you, but you.

 

[1] A Seat at the Table references are obviously required in any discussion about self-care

[2] I’m making it a point to invent new words with every blog post. Plus, moving abroad = automatic bad bish status.

[3]  Almost everything that hurts in pole will cease to hurt after you’ve done it several hundred times.

[4] Aerial hoop/Lyra is a circus art, which is also growing in popularity, just as awesome of a workout, but typically less accessible than pole dancing, which tends to be the gateway sport for most people. Several of the studios listed also offer hoop, silks, and other circus art classes as well.

[5] This isn’t a comprehensive list, just a start.

 


Bernadette is true Jersey girl — impatient, unfiltered, and infamously averse to mayonnaise. Her affinity for the finer things in life include high-end leather boots, jamón ibérico, and all things bourbon. She and her miniature poodle Kona, currently reside on the wrong side of the Atlantic in Baltimore, MD. But Madrid is their spirit city, and they plan of finding their way back in the future, this time for keeps. You can find more of her work here. www.sinmayonesporfavor.com